Hot cross buns

Easter baking: hot cross buns

It’s been a weird week for me. On Tuesday my home country, Belgium, found itself under a very dark cloud. Today is Friday and I feel that the cloud slowly is lifting. I think about what happened a lot. Like a lot of people I have questions. Lots of questions. Am I angry? No, just disappointed that one human would want to hurt another. And that is true for every conflict that is going on anywhere in the world, wether it be war or in the family home. But this is what I believe: we are strong. Like grass. You can step on grass but it doesn’t break. It just bends. And then it raises itself back up to grown some more.

Here in Berlin, spring is becoming more and more present. Small blossoms are appearing on the trees in the street, yellow and purple crocuses as well as snowdrops are pushing their way through the soil and grass; strong, green grass; is growing again. Today is the start of the Easter weekend. For me, it has always been the moment where I choose to leave the dark winter days behind and focus on the new life and opportunities that spring brings. So, despite what happened this week, I am going to keep focusing on the good things.

We are all home for Easter this year. This doesn’t happen often when you have a pilot husband. I am so excited about that, that I think I’ve made too many plans for things we can do together. On top of that, our son is turning 3 only 2 days after Easter. I suppose we are looking at 5 solid days of celebrations. To start off this Easter weekend, S. (home from Kita with fever) and I made these lovely hot cross buns. The list of ingredients is on the longer side but once you have them all assembled it’s a piece of cake. The mixer does most of the work. Then it’s just the waiting and the finishing touches to do. Class them as bread and have them for breakfast. Call them buns and have them with your afternoon coffee. Or just have them because you want something sweet that isn’t a chocolate easter egg.

I now have a jar of mixed spice. What do you think I should bake with it?

Hot cross buns for Easter

Hot cross buns

makes about 18 buns

Ingredients:

7g dried yeast

50g sugar

375ml milk heated to lukewarm

700g flour

1 tsp mixed spice * (recipe all the way down)

1 tsp ground cardamom

250g raisins

60g soft butter in cubes

1 egg

For the cross: 5 heaped tbsp flour

For the glaze: 5 tbsp apricot jam

Method:

1- Use a standmixer with the dough hook attached.

2- In the bowl of your mixer add the flour, spices, raisins and yeast. Let it mix for a minute.

3- Add the sugar to the milk and give it a stir. Then pour it into the bowl and add the egg and butter too. Mix this mixture for about 10 minutes on the lowest speed. The dough will form into a ball and start to come away from the bowl sides.

4- Brush the inside of a large bowl with oil. Take the dough out of the mixer bowl and make sure all the raisins are evenly distributed within the dough. Then form into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Cover with clingfilm and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).

5- When the dough has risen enough, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lightly floured service. Knead it for another minute and shape into a long sausage. Cut 18 equal bits from the dough and shape into balls. Place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper leaving about 3 cm between each ball. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.

6- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

7- For the cross, put the flour to a small bowl. Gently add some water, tbsp by tbsp until you have a paste with the consistency of pancake batter. Put the paste in a piping bag with a nozzle that has a diameter of about 5mm.

8- When the buns have risen they should nearly touch each other. Make the crosses by piping across all the buns at the same time. In other words, you will be making several long horizontal lines and then several long vertical lines.

9- Bake for 20 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.

10- During the last 5 minutes of the baking process, heat the apricot jam in a saucepan on a low heat. Once runny, pass the jam through a sieve to get rid of any bits. Brush the het cross buns with the jam when they come out of the oven and still hot.

11- Let the hot cross buns cool inside the tray.

HAPPY EASTER!!

Easter treat: hot cross bun

*Recipe for mixed spice:

1 tbsp ground allspice

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

1 tbsp nutmeg

2 tsp ground mace

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground ginger

Mix it all together and store in an airtight container.

Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

Traditional Swedish Lent buns called Semlor

Next week we will be celebrating Fasching here in Germany, but you might call it Mardi Grass, or Carnival. The day is traditionally one of indulgence and different countries have different foods that they make to celebrate with. In the UK for example, pancakes will be in the menu. In Berlin, there will be a type of jam-filled donut called Pfannkuchen. And in Sweden people will feast on semlor.

Semlor are sweet yeast buns that smell beautifully of cardamom. They are filled with a simple almond paste and some cream, then finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar. Simple and elegant, these buns look like they could be part of an afternoon tea as well as being a nice addition to a late winter Sunday morning brunch. But first and foremost, they are Sweden’s Fat Tuesday treat. I suggest that you immerse yourself in some Scandinavian baking this week and make these your pre-Lent treat.

Next week I’ll be working on Valentine’s Day recipes. If the sky was the limit, what would you want your loved one to bake for you?

Simply Swedish Semlor

 Semlor – Swedish Lent buns

(makes 8)

Ingredients:

125ml milk

50g butter

1 tsp instant yeast

pinch of salt

20g sugar

1/4 tsp cardamom

1 egg yolk

225g flour

plus: 1 egg, whisked, for glazing

For the filling:

50g ground almonds

50g powdered sugar

2 tbsp water

100 ml whipping cream

plus: icing sugar for dusting

Method:

  1. Heat the milk and the butter in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted. Do not let the mixture boil. Set aside and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a dough hook, add the flour, yeast, salt, sugar and cardamom. Let it mix for a couple of seconds.
  3. Pour the milk mixture in the middle of the bowl and mix for a couple of seconds. Then add the egg yolk. Mix the dough for about 10-15 minutes. The dough will be slightly wet and feel sticky.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Let it rise for about 2 hours or until the dough has double in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
  6. Take the dough out of the bowl and divide into 8 equal parts. Shape them into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Then place a damp tea towel over the dough balls and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes.
  7. Remove the towel and brush the balls with the whisked egg. Then place the baking tray in the middle of the oven and bake for a total of 10-13 minutes, turning the baking tray half a turn after 6 minutes to ensure even browning. The semlor should be a light golden brown.
  8. Take the tray out of the oven and place to one side. Cover the semlor with the damp tea towel while the buns cool.
  9. Now, make the almond paste by mixing the ground almonds, powdered sugar and 2 tbsp of water in a bowl.
  10. Once the semlor are cooled, carefully slice off the top and scoop out the center. Put the crumbs in a bowl and add to that the almond paste and 2 tbsp of the cream. Mix it all together.
  11. Fill the semlor with 1-2 tsp of the almond paste mix.
  12. Whip the rest of the cream until stiff and scoop or pipe it on top of the almond paste mix. Then put the “lid” of the bun on top of the cream.
  13. Dust with some icing sugar to finish them off.

ENJOY!!

Selmor - Swedish Lent buns

Shortbread

A plate of buttery shortbread

When I was 8 we moved half way round the world from Belgium to Hong Kong. I have memories of that time but they are very much the memories of a child. I remember the colours of the curtains in the plane for example. I remember how cool I thought it was that all the kids in my new, British school got crisps in their lunchbox. And how uncool I thought it was that my mum refused to take on that habit. I have fond memories of a very unorganised stationary shop in Shatin Plaza shopping centre where I would carefully pick out the nicest smelling letter paper (this was the era of smelly letter paper and stickers, even erasers!).

I personally hold British Airways and Cathay Pacific responsible for introducing me to small blocks of orange coloured cheddar cheese and Walker’s shortbread fingers in their distinctive red wrapper. I have loved them ever since that very first flight half way around the globe. Sometimes I prefer the convenient, factory made versions. Other times, I prefer to go to the cheesemongers at our local farmer’s market for a good piece of cheddar. In the same way, I sometimes prefer to make our own shortbread.

Shortbread triangles

Shortbread is quick and easy to make. For the basic version you only need 3 ingredients: sugar, flour and butter. That’s it! And mixing it couldn’t be easier. A bowl and a set of hands will get you the perfect shortbread dough in minutes. No overworking the dough though. It needs to be crumbly. The crumblier the better the finished result will be. It will look gorgeously rustic and smell buttery and sweet. I think that after speculoos, this is my favourite childhood cookie.

What’s your favourite childhood cookie? Can you tell me how to make them?

Shortbread

(recipe from “Jamie’s Great Britain”, Jamie Oliver)

Makes 8 big cookies or 16 smaller cookies

Ingredients:

200g flour

50g sugar

125g butter (unsalted), cubed

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. In a bowl, mix the flour and sugar. Add the butter cubes.

3. Using your fingers, rub the butter, flour and sugar together. When you start to get crumbs, use your hands to press it all together into a ball and transfer onto the lined baking tray.

4. Using your hands, press the shortbread dough down into a circle, square or rectangle about 1 cm thick. It it rips or crumbles, just press it all together again. The shape doesn’t have to be perfect.

5. Use a knife to score lines where you plan to cut the shortbread after it has been baked. Then sprinkle it with about 1 tablespoon on sugar.

6. Bake for 25-30 minutes until it starts to lose its pale colour.

7. Take the shortbread out of the oven and let it sit to cool for 5 minutes. Then take a sharp knife and cut along the scored lines. Let cool a further 10-15 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

ENJOY!!

buttery and crumbly shortbread

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

IMG_6058

I grew up on a breakfast of buttered bread with a layer of jam and fresh pastries on Sundays. That’s how we did things in Belgium back in the 80’s. Cereal was new and expensive and I don’t think a lot of people had heard of muesli. Compared to all the breakfast options we have today, it seems very boring and unhealthy. Now and again though, I like to go back to this kind of breakfast purely for nostalgic reasons.

Something that was always on the table at home was peperkoek (spiced bread). It’s not really a bread in the traditional sense. The concept is similar to banana bread: looks like cake but is called “bread”. The proper peperkoek has rye flour and lots of honey. It is light on the inside and has a dark brown, soft, sticky crust. I found this version of peperkoek when I was looking for a simpler recipe that didn’t have so much sugars in it. Granted, this recipe still calls for 250g of brown sugar but the amount of the honey is limited to 1 and a half tablespoons.

Buttered knife with crumbs

The spices is what makes this bread an absolute dream. If you are a fan of speculaas (biscoff cookies) this will be right up your street. It uses the exact same spices. You can find my recipe for speculaas spice mix here. The only way to eat this peperkoek is with a rather thick layer of real butter. Another way to really enjoy it is by putting a slice in between 2 slices of fresh, crusty white bread.

So this isn’t going to be in the top 10 of “healthy breakfasts for you” but it definitely would be part of the “tastiest breakfast treats” list. I think you should try this peperkoek. If anything, for the fact that it makes your house smell amazing. But, if you’re trying to cut down on sugar as part of a new year’s resolution, just save it for later via my Pinterest board.

What is your favourite breakfast? Do you make an extra effort on the weekend? And does anyone make their own croissants?

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

Makes 1 big loaf

Ingredients:

100ml of water

250g flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp speculaas spice mix

1 1/2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.

3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a big bowl and a handmixer), mix all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder.

4. When the mixture is smooth, add the flour and baking powder, a tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then mix on medium-high speed for about 7-10 minutes. When you stop mixing you should see bubbles trying to form on the surface.

5. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr. Use a knife or skewer to check if it is baked completely.

6. Take the peperkoek out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the tin and letting it cool further on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

 Spiced bread or peperkoek

Galette de Rois – 3 Kings pie

Galette de rois

Happy New Year!

I know it’s already been a week since we all stepped into 2016 but nevertheless I wanted to wish you all the best for the coming 366 days. If this is the start of a new beginning for you, I wish you luck on your journey. If you mean to keep going as you did when 2015 ended then I hope it keeps going well for you.

As a child, I remember very well how we celebrated the arrival of the 3 kings (or wise men) on January 6th. We would dress up, cut a star out of cardboard and attach it to a stick then find something that could pass as a small treasure chest. We then went on our way around the neighbourhood singing the 3 kings song to any one who opened their front door. As a reward, we would get a chocolate gold coin or a clementine. When we had enough treasure we would go home to warm up and eat 3 Kings cake, or galette de rois as its called in French. My mother made a different version of the galette de rois than the one I’ve made but the concept is the same: make a cake or pie, stick in a coffee bean or almond or small toy and then see who gets the slice with the surprise. The lucky winner is crowned king for the day. Something we took very seriously as we got older (as in, we would boss around our siblings because, you know, we were the king).

Celebrate with a 3 kings cake called galette de rois

This galette de rois is not difficult to make. Buy yourself some ready rolled puffed pastry and the rest is just a matter of mixing and assembling. The recipe is for 1 galette enough to feed 6 people but I chose to make smaller versions because we’ve been eating so much cake in this house lately (Christmas, New Year and 2 kids celebrating their Name Day in the space of 14 days) that I wanted to tone it down a bit.

What about you, do you stop baking for a while after all the celebrations or do you just opt for healthier or smaller bakes?

Galette de rois

(serves 6)

Ingredients:

500g puffed pastry

125g soft butter

125g sugar

125 almond meal

2 eggs

1 tbsp Amaretto

1 egg yolk for glazing

1 coffee bean, almond or small heatproof toy

Method:

1. Using a standmixer with whisk (or a handmixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs one by one mixing in between each egg. Mix well until the eggs are COMPLETELY combined. This can take a couple of minutes.

3. Add the Amaretto and mix.

4. Using a spatula, fold in the almond meal.

5. Cut 2 plate size circles out of the puff pastry. Place one on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Add a about 1/2 a tsp of water to the egg yolk and mix. Using a pastry brush, brush the edge of the circle with the egg yolk (about 2-3cm thick).

7. Spoon the almond cream into the middle of the circle. Spread out until it nearly reaches the egg yolk. Be careful not to pile the cream too high. You might have some left over cream. Now place the bean/almond/heatproof toy somewhere in the cream.

8. Place the second circle of pastry on top and lightly press the edge down onto the bottom circle edge. The egg yolk will help the circles stick together.

9. Decorate the edge of the galette like this using the back of a knife.

(this image is from http://www.blogdechataigne.fr)Galette de rois: how to do the edges

10. Decorate the top of the galette if you want to. Using a sharp knife draw out a pattern without cutting through the pastry. Then brush the entire galette with the egg yolk and stick it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

11. While your galette de rois is in de fridge, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

12. Take the galette out and put it in the middle of your oven. After 15 minutes, turn down the temperature to 190 degrees C and bake for another 20 minutes.

13. Take out the galette when its a nice shiny, dark brown colour. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Make sure that if you use a small toy as surprise it can withstand high temperatures. Also, if you have small children it might be best to skip the surprise because of the possible chocking risk. 

If you want to try making smaller versions, reduce the oven times to 5 minutes at 220 degrees followed by 10 minutes at 190 degrees C. 

ENJOY!!

3 kings and galette de rois

Traditional Swedish saffron buns

It’s the second week of my Christmas countdown. Did you have a go at last week’s Sinterklaas treat? How did you find it?

This week we’re leaving the Belgian traditions behind us and heading north to Sweden. St. Lucia is the beautiful celebration of light in the winter darkness. Kids dress up as Lucia in a white long dress and wear a wreath with candles on their head. Others choose to dress up as a gingerbread man, a small Santa or a star boy. This is will give a better idea of how it goes.

Saffron gives these St Lucia buns their golden colour

No Lucia celebration is complete without Lussebullar or Saffron buns. Saffron isn’t cheap but for this special occasion really worth the expense. Its colour is bold and bright and I find it smells divine. Last year I made this lovely golden loaf for Lucia but this year I wanted to keep things really traditional. The kids absolutely love them and for P. it’s pure nostalgia. These saffron buns also freeze really well so go ahead and make a big batch. They are perfect when coming in from the snow, perfect to munch on while watching a classic Christmas movie or have them for breakfast on boxing day (26th December). Either way, I think you should submerge yourself in a little, golden Swedish saffron tradition. Have I convinced you?

Swedish saffron buns

 

Traditional Swedish saffron buns (Lussebullar)

makes 15 buns

Ingredients:

7g dry yeast

80g butter

250ml milk

0,5g saffron (yes, it is a lot of threads)

1/2 tsp salt

85g sugar

400g flour

for glazing: 1 egg

for decorating: raisins

Method:

1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Then add the milk and heat up to about 37 degrees C. Your finger should neither feel hot or cold when you put it in the mixture.

2. Put the yeast in a bowl and pour the sugar over it. Then add the salt on top of the sugar. Add the saffron threads and then the warm butter-milk mixture. Mix it on a low speed if using a stand or handheld mixer. You can also just use a whisk. Mix until the sugar, salt and yeast has dissolved and the saffron is giving off its yellow colour.

3. Add most of the flour, leaving several tbsp to one side. Let the machine knead the mixture (or use your hands) and check after 5 minutes. If the mixture is too wet, add a tbsp of flour. Continue to knead and check. I used nearly all the 400g of flour.

4. Knead until the dough is no longer sticky and comes away from the mixer bowl.

5. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and let it rise until double in size (approx. an hour).

6. Knead the dough again for several minutes then divide it into 15 equal bits.

7. Roll out the dough bits into sausages about 20cm long and the shape them into an “S” making sure the tops are really curled in, like a snail’s house.

8. Put the buns on a baking tray lined with baking paper and then cover with clingfilm and let double in size.

9. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C. Whisk the egg and brush the buns with the egg wash. Put a raisin in the middle of each “snail-house” and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Enjoy!

Christmas time in Sweden-Lussebullar or Saffron buns

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

Perfect speculaas cookies (homemade biscoff cookies)

For the past 5 days Berlin has been covered in a blanket of greyness. The sun obviously thought that it also deserved a week of autumn holiday like all the school kids in the city. Rubber boots were the preferred choice of footwear and every puddle on the way to Kita had to be jumped in. I would have joined my kids in this fun activity but I don’t own rubber boots. I did attempt to buy a pair yesterday but it turns out, they are not really stocked in shoe shops. The adult version, that is, kids boots are available everywhere. But guess what, today we woke up to blue skies. It has since clouded over a bit but the rain has stopped. And so has my search for boots.

Next time it rains, I will of course end up with wet feet again. P. will point out that I should really get proper footwear for the season. I will tell him that he is right and that I will order some online tonight. We have had this same conversation for the past 3 autumns here in Berlin…

Traditional speculaas cookies

So we’ve had our first week of proper awful autumn weather in the city and this can only mean one thing. People are moving indoors in search of comfort and cosiness. Tables outside of restaurants are empty and iced coffees are swapped for hot chocolates and ginger teas. And since the ice cream shops have closed for the season, sweet temptations have to be found elsewhere. When was the last time your home smelled of freshly baked cookies? More to the point, has your home ever been filled with the smells of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and my favourite, mace?

Speculaas (or speculoos, or Biscoff cookies) are spiced cookies which can be found all year round in Belgium. The spice mix needed to make them comes ready-made and can easily be bought in shops or bakeries. I started making my own speculaas mix because these packets are not available in Berlin and maybe where you live either. The cookies will not taste like the Lotus brand of Biscoff cookies though. They are the kind you would buy at the traditional bakery on the corner of the street.

Cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger

A quick note on the spices:

– Cardamom comes in pods or already ground. If you can only find the pods, ground the seeds with a spice grinder or coffee grinder until you get a fine powder.

– The same applies for the cloves. If you can’t find the powder, grind them into a thin powder.

– Use only ground ginger and nutmeg.

– Mace is a spice derived from nutmeg. You will also need it in powder form. I find this spice tricky to find where I live. It can be left out.

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

(makes 15-20 depending on what cookie cutter you use)

Ingredients:

250g flour

150g butter, softened

140g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tbsp milk at room temperature

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground mace (optional)

Method:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Add the milk and the butter and kneed until the dough stops sticking to your hands or the dough hook of a standmixer.

3. Roll the dough into a ball them flatten into a thick disk. Wrap it in baking paper (or clingfilm) and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better as the flavours will really develop.

4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough until 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Transfer the cookies to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes.

7. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack and store in a airtight container.

ENJOY!

Stacks of crunchy, spicy speculaas cookies

Sacher Torte – Austrian chocolate cake

Sacher Torte

Have a slice of this delicious Austrian chocolate cake - Sacher Torte

Every Sunday I look at my diary and see a pretty straight forward week: work Monday and Tuesday, day off on Wednesday, blog on Thursday and Friday then settle down for the weekend. And then Monday morning comes around. I find myself at my desk with said diary, a pencil and an eraser and everything changes.

A friend moved away earlier than I had expected. In other words, a last-minute get-together had to be arranged quickly. Another friend who I hadn’t seen in years found herself unexpectedly with a day off in Berlin. So Tuesday’s work got cancelled and off we went for a delicious catch up breakfast. I spent most of Wednesday on the sofa fighting a cold so that I could at least work on Thursday. And now we are at the end of the week and I’m looking after my oldest who was sick last night and this morning and therefore can’t go to Kita. Oh, and I did get that cold…

The advantage of having our business is that I can be flexible. If I don’t get it done during the day because I need to take my daughter to the doctor, I can catch up in the evening. If P. has his days off during the week, I can spend the day with him if I plan work and blog around it. It’s not a perfect system, and like this week, it all sort of became a bit chaotic.

I tried very hard to bake something good in all this chaos. I forced myself to step out of the stress lane and focus. Work slow. Be precise. And it worked… until I sort of dropped the cake and it cracked. I hid it with the icing so it looked a bit nicer. In a weird way, it reflects many parents’ life. You might think we’ve got it all under control. It may look like we have the perfect balance of kids-work-us but in reality it’s more like my Sacher Torte this week: a bit cracked, a bit crumbly, a bit not how it should be but still fabulous. How has your week been?

(Here’s a view of the beautiful Café Sacher, home to the original and secret recipe for this delicious cake)

Sacher Torte - delicious Austrian chocolate cake

Sacher Torte (Austrian chocolate cake)

(adapted from a recipe by Mary Berry)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

150g dark chocolate

150g soft butter

100g sugar

1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar

5 eggs, separated

75g ground almonds

40g plain flower

For the topping:

6 tbsp apricot jam

150g dark chocolate

200ml whipping cream

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 23cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

2. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it gently in a bowl set on a saucepan with 2-3cm of simmering water. Let it cool a bit. Meanwhile, beat the butter until really soft and then gradually add the sugar and the vanilla sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3. Add the cooled chocolate to the mixture and beat again. Then add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated.

4.Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold it into the mixture. Then pour it all in the cake tin. Level the top.

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake is springy. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack and pealing off the baking paper.

6. When the cake is completely cooled, make the topping. Heat the apricot jam in a saucepan. Strain it to get rid of any lumps and bits. Brush the jam on the top and sides of the cake. Let the jam cool.

7. Melt the chocolate and the cream togheter in a bowl set on a saucepan with 2-3cm simmering water. Allow to cool and thicken a bit. Then pour the chocolate in the center of the cake and let it cover the cake completely. Now leave it to set.

 Enjoy!

Delicious chocolate cake - Sacher Torte

Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

kladdkaka with cream and blueberries

In Sweden, where P. is from, there is this tradition that on Saturday everyone goes to the supermarket and fills a big bag full of sweets from the huge pick and mix stand. When you get home, you can keep your lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets) in the bag or put them in a large bowl and munch away all weekend long. This mix of bonbons, chocolates, fudges, caramels and more is a colourful display.

Sometimes, I think our little family is a bit like that bowl of mixed colours and flavours. P. is Swedish, I am from Belgium, the kids were born in Northern Ireland and we chose to settle in Germany. Berlin is our home and we plan to stay here. But how do you answer the question: Where are you from? In my case, I answer by saying that I am from Belgium but live in Germany. P. answers the same way. But what about our kids? They are not from Belgium. They are not from Sweden. They are essentially from Germany.

Blueberries on black background

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately. How will our kids deal with all of this? What sort of questions will they ask when they are older? What nationality will they take when they turn 18 and have to choose? How will they give Belgium, Sweden and Northern Ireland a place in their life? In their being? Who will they be and how will they define themselves?

Whatever the answers, we will give them the freedom to search and find their way. Their roots might be growing in German soil, but their heritage, their seeds of life, that has come from 3 beautiful and inspiring places.

P. and I wil make sure they know about their heritage. And part of this heritage for me personally is food. And not just the national dishes, but the simple tomato soup Oma (grandmother in Belgium) makes or the lobster thermidor Farfar (grandfather in Sweden) cooks on special occasions.

This week’s recipe is a Swedish sticky (Kladd) cake (kaka). It’s easy and requires just 1 bowl and something to mix the batter with. I bet you my nearly 4 year old could do this. So let the lesson “this is your heritage” begin…

kladdkaka with bowl of cream and bowl of blueberries

 Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 eggs

270g sugar

60g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa

100g melted butter

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and flour a round springform tin (important!).

2. In a bowl, use a handmixer or whisk to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for  30 minutes.

4. Let the cake cool in the tin.

5. When ready to serve, remove the springform side. Do not attempt to remove the cake from the bottom of the tin, it is too sticky and fudge-like. Use a cake cutter (preferably one that won’t scratch your tin) to cut and scrape/lift a piece of the cake. It will come loose, it’s just nice and sticky.

6. Serve with some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, berries, toasted nuts or sliced, fresh fruit

ENJOY!

 blueberries rolling out of bowl

Scones two ways

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Scones are the highlight of an english afternoon tea. Fresh out of the oven with that little crack in the middle, making it possible to pull apart in two perfectly identical bits. No knife needed.

Scones can be eaten warm or cold. It’s a personal thing. And they can be eaten just like that. No additions, no distractions. But if you want to jazz it up a bit and eat them like they do in the United Kingdom (think Downton Abbey) then you will need to add some creaminess and some sweetness. Soft butter (preferably the real deal) and strawberry jam. Nothing complicated. Just put a nice layer of both on your scone and indulge. But if you can get your hands on clotted cream then by all means use that instead of butter. Yum!

Flour, baking powder, sugar, butter and milk. That’s all really. A bowl, a wooden spoon, a round cookie cutter or a small glass and your hands. Nothing high tech.

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Use your fingers to rub the butter and the flour together. Make sure you don’t have any lumps, you are looking for a breadcrumb texture.

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Slowly add the milk and use your hands or a wooden spoon on turn it all into a sticky, rather wet dough. Split the dough into 2 bits. One part we will leave as it is and the other part we will add the raisins to.

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Flour your work surface. Don’t be shy, you’ll need quite a bit. Use your hands to flatten the dough and then start cutting it those scones.

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Don’t forget to glaze them so they get that lovely, golden shine. Time to bake! In the mean time, make yourself a cup of tea.

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One plate of scones ready to be eaten.

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Don’t forget the jam. Strawberry is best, but any good jam will do. Be creative (mine is Rhubarb).

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Recipe:

Scones two ways

(recipe adapted from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible)

450g flour and 4 tbsp baking powder

OR

450g self-raising flour

2 rounded tbsp baking powder

75g soft butter

50g sugar

300ml milk plus 2 tbsp for glazing

60g raisins

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

In a bowl, mix the flour and baking powder.

Add the butter and use your fingers to rub the butter and flour together until you have a breadcrumb-like texture.

Add the sugar and mix.

Add the milk in several steps and mix the dough with your hands or a wooden spoon. the dough will be sticky and wet.

Split the dough in to 2 halves. Leave one plain and add the raisins to the other half.

Flour your work surface and shape the dough into a flat circle about 2 cm thick. Use a cookie cutter to a glass to cut out circles. Don’t twist the cutter or glass while cutting.

Put the scones on a baking sheet and glaze with a little milk.

Bake for 12 minutes until golden.

Let cool or eat warm.

(makes about 20 scones depending on the size of the cutter or glass)